Limb theory disputed

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY The defense theory that the leg found in the rubble of the federal building belonged to the ''real bomber'' has been undermined by scientists' conclusion that the limb was that of a black woman.

Authorities believe the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed on April 19 by someone sympathetic to predominantly white right-wing groups.

''If we are now locked into the white supremacist theory, then I presume a black person's leg doesn't fit the stereotype we've been asked to accept,'' said Gerry Goldstein, a Texas attorney and former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is not connected to the case.

The leg was clad in a size 7 1/2 military-style boot and an olive drab strap of the sort used by soldiers to tuck their pants into their boots. That led Stephen Jones, Timothy McVeigh's lawyer, to speculate that the limb might be the remains of the ''real bomber.''

However, tests conducted by the FBI found the leg belonged to a black woman age 16 to 30, not a light-skinned man with dark hair, as the state medical examiner's office at first concluded.

The FBI tests failed to match the leg to any of the known victims, prompting the medical examiner's office to raise the death toll from the bombing to 169.

McVeigh and Terry Nichols face conspiracy and murder charges in the bombing and could get the death penalty if convicted.

Although the conclusion that the leg belonged to a black person weakens the ''real bomber'' theory, it will give the defense ammunition to attack the government's forensic evidence, Goldstein said.

''No question about it. They seem to have been dead wrong that it was a white male,'' Goldstein said. ''I mean, what next?''

Jones immediately adopted such a strategy. ''With this disclosure,'' he said, ''no one can have confidence in any of the forensic work in this case.''

Prosecutors have maintained that they were not interested in the leg except as a possible 169th victim.

''It clearly appears now that it is another victim. It doesn't impact the case against McVeigh or Nichols,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Mullins said.

Meanwhile, investigators renewed the effort to identify the victim.

The description of the woman does not fit any known missing-person reports, said Sgt. Bill Martin, a police spokesman.

''We're continuing to look through missing persons, and we're asking other agencies if they know of anybody who could have been in the vicinity of the building on the 19th,'' he said.

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